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The Peoria Municipal Band plans a full lineup for its 85th season this summer

Band Director Dr. David Vroman with players of the band
Peoria Municipal Band Facebook page
Band Director Dr. David Vroman with performers in the band.

The Peoria Municipal Band is back for its 85th season this summer and is planning to do a full concert lineup after shortening it last year due to COVID-19.

The band, founded in 1937, was forced to cancel the entirety of its season in 2020 due to the pandemic, and operated on a shortened schedule in 2021 with extensive safety protocols in place for its players.

Director of the band Dr. David Vroman took over the role in 1991, and before that he was a player himself in the band. He said getting the band up and running again after the hiatus was a mix of feelings.

“It was dreadful from one standpoint that I was really worried about it but … the quality of the band and the work ethic of the band returned very quickly, and we were able to fill those seats and have a full band,” said Vroman.

Dr. David Vroman, Director of the Peoria Municipal Band
Jody Holtz
Dr. David Vroman, Director of the Peoria Municipal Band

The 85th season will kick off on Memorial Day with a performance from the mini band at the Gateway building in Peoria. The band's first full concert will be on June 5.

While Vroman is excited to put together a full season this summer, he says he understands many people are still concerned about COVID, and they will be quick to make changes if necessary.

“Everybody's safety, that’s our interest. We want to provide great music, but obviously we're concerned about everybody that's involved, musicians, audience members, staff, everybody,” said Vroman.

The 50-piece band operates throughout the summer months, primarily switching between two different venues. On Wednesday evenings, the band performs on Water Street in downtown Peoria. Although last year the band performed at Lakeview Park, this season they’re back to their roots performing at the Glen Oak Park amphitheater for Sunday night concerts. Vroman says while the amphitheater is a traditional venue, the band tries to play in areas where the public will have the most access to them.

With COVID subsiding and the band pushing towards a new normal like a lot of Peorians, Vroman says the challenges he anticipates are really the same ones that they always encounter.

“The challenge is just to get the word out. It’s always surprising to me when I run into people and they say, 'There’s a municipal band in town?’ And they’re not aware of that, and Peoria of course as we know is a tremendously active musical community, so we like to get the word out for the summer,” Vroman explains.

Although making people aware of the band is a challenge, you wouldn’t know it based on the turn out the band typically receives. Prior to COVID, on a nice Sunday night the band typically averaged over a thousand people in the audience. On Wednesday nights on Water Street, the band averaged anywhere between 400-600 people.

However, continuing to spread the word of the band's whereabouts is important, because Vroman hopes to bring back a couple of other things that have made the concerts special in the past, like raffles for gift certificates to local restaurants.

“We’ve had great support out of a lot of the restaurants in town…and when you show up for a concert you just write your name on a slip of paper and we pull it at intermission…and you get to enjoy a great meal at one of our great establishments that are in town,” Vroman said.

In addition to giveaways, the band hopes to include more guest MCs, and bring back the John Kamarer youth soloist competition.

“This is a competition that is open to area students, and they come and perform a solo and if they’re selected then they perform a solo with the band,” said Vroman.

Many of the students who have been selected in the past continue on with their musical journey in college, or even become members of the Municipal band later on.

Vroman says that a little birdy has even told him that the Peoria Park District is planning on bringing back some of their fireworks on July 3rd. This means the Municipal band’s concert that day will be a special performance, with a firework show right after in Glen Oak Park.

All of this excitement will make for a very musical summer here in Peoria, and also provide a space for people to cherish time spent with fellow community members, something that hasn’t been done to this extent in a long two years.

Overall, Vroman says he just wants to see the band continue for years to come.

“There are all sorts of things that go on in this community that I think sometimes people overlook a little bit, and that’s mainly because we're all busy…but we always say…go ahead and get out of the house for an evening, turn the phone off, and just enjoy each others company, enjoy being outdoors, enjoy the music, and just approach things a bit differently.”

The Peoria Municipal band will post its full schedule of performances, including two special Friday night concerts, here once it is finalized. The band can also be found on Facebook.

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Jody Holtz is WCBU's assistant development director, assistant program director, host of WCBU's newsmagazine All Things Peoria and producer of WCBU’s arts and culture podcast Out and About.